SW FL-Bonita Beach: Lane snapper, red grouper, black drum & more
<p>Monday, 12/19, seas were calm, and I fished in spots between 17 and 28 miles west of New Pass with Josh and Mikelle Schmitt and their friends, Laura and Evan Kemp. Using squid, the group caught fifty-four lane snapper in all, twenty-five of which were nice keepers at 13 to 14 inches, and went into the fish box. They added a 16-inch whitebone porgy and a few grunts. They released, ten yellowtail snapper shorts, one 12-inch triggerfish, thirty red grouper shorts, and two 45-inch sandbar sharks.
Tuesday morning, 12/20, was foggy until around 11AM, but that didn't stop me from getting 17 miles offshore with Shannon McGee and his thirteen-year-old son, Nicholas, who had never fished offshore before. Using squid, the guys released fifteen red grouper shorts to 18 inches, along with all but six of a mess of grunts they caught. Added to the grunts they kept were seven keeper lane snapper, the makings of a pretty good fish dinner!
Although temperatures were predicted to be unseasonably warm all week, Wednesday morning, 12/21, arrived with total cloud cover and some wind and, without the sun to warm things up, it remained chilly in southern Estero Bay, where I fished with Joe Watton, his sister-in-law, Regina Theobald, and Regina's daughter, Emily Hansard. Using live shrimp, the trio caught six black drum ranging in size from 16 inches to 22 inches. They kept a couple of the smaller ones, which are good to eat (the big ones are prone to worms) and released the rest, along with a couple of small sheepshead and two crevalle jacks.
Thursday, 12/22, Marissa Gesell, her parents, Lily and Rick Gesell, and her fiancé, Simon, fished 20 miles offshore with me using squid and cut-bait. Marissa landed a keeper red grouper at 22 inches, and the group added ten keeper lane snapper to the fish box. They released a few grunts.
Friday morning, 12/23, was a windy one in southern Estero Bay, where I fished the backwaters with Claire Reilly, her mom and dad, Mary Pat and Paul, and her sister, Nora. The black drum bite wasn't as active as it was the last time I fished there, but the family caught two of those, including one keeper, along with some sheepshead and crevalle jacks, all on live shrimp. They lost two larger fish when the hook pulled free, most likely drum.
I was off the water for a few days, with family visiting for the Christmas holiday, but I returned to fish offshore on Tuesday, 12/27, with Bob and Martha Graham, their daughter Jennifer Ness, and their twelve-year-old granddaughter, Katie Ness. The group caught eleven red grouper, including one keeper at 21 inches, along with a dozen keeper lane snapper to 11 inches and a few grunts. Everything bit on squid or cut-bait, 18 miles west of New Pass.
Wednesday morning, 12/28, Bob Eckle, his sons, Nick and Jason, and their friend, Clayton Sekel, fished southern Estero Bay's backwaters with me, using shrimp for bait. Nick landed a beauty of a redfish at just under 30 inches. The group also caught three black drum, including one keeper at 17 inches. They released four sheepshead shorts, two crevalle jacks, and a five-pound stingray.
Rich Driscoll, his son, Jack, and friends, Steve, Emma, and Sadie Calhoun fished 22 miles west of New Pass with me Thursday morning, 12/29, using squid for bait. The group caught a mess of 25 keeper lane snapper, of which they kept a dozen to 16 inches. They chose to release the rest of those, along with a dozen red grouper shorts to 18 inches.
Ten-year-old Owen Grimes had a good time catching and releasing in southern Estero Bay, where he fished with his dad, Gavin, and his grandpa, Gary, on a windy, chilly morning Friday, 12/30. Using live shrimp, the family released eight black drum, ranging from a pair that were 18 inches to the largest, at 29 inches. Owen reeled in a 28-inch drum himself, which was a lot of fun for him. We also released four sheepshead shorts, as well as puffer-fish.
Winds and seas were decreasing Saturday, but there were residual seas of up to four feet offshore, so Vicki Dilane, her son, Malcolm, and her daughter, Rachel, decided to fish inshore in southern Estero Bay with me on the final day of 2016. The family spent the morning catching black drum and sheepshead, mostly, all on live shrimp. They caught five drum, ranging 17 inches to 23 inches. They kept the smaller drum for dinner and released the large ones, along with four sheepshead shorts and a 13-inch mutton snapper.
Jim Madsen, his daughter, Stacy, and his son and daughter-in-law, Nick and Hillary, were the first party of the new year to fish with me. We fished 22 miles west of New Pass on Monday, 1/2/17, using live squid. The family boxed twenty-five keeper lane snapper to 13 inches, along with a dozen grunts. They released twelve red grouper shorts.
Edward and Lorrie Tritt and their daughter, Sarah, fished in calm seas with me twenty miles west of New Pass on Tuesday morning, 1/3. The lane snapper bite was good on squid, and the family caught thirty keeper lanes to 13 inches, and released twenty smaller ones. They also caught sixteen red grouper, including a very nice keeper at 26 inches, which bit on a baitfish. We also had an 8-foot hammerhead shark on for a while, until it snapped the line, so there was plenty of action, excitement, sore arms, and food-fish in the box!
Leo Walsh, his son-in-law, Bob, and his grandson, Sam, fished near-shore with me on Wednesday morning, 1/4. We had planned to head out further in what was predicted to be calm seas, but a small weather-front came through, bringing some wind, drizzles and rougher seas, so we ended up fishing about seven miles off Naples Beach, where the guys used squid to box a mess of grunts and a keeper porgy. They released quite a few, out-of-season gag grouper shorts to 20 inches. They headed home with plans for a dinner of fish tacos!
John Fuglsang, his grandchildren, Julia and Jimmy Novy, and two of their friends, Lindsay and Kevin, fished 20 miles west of New Pass with me on Thursday morning, 1/5, using squid and cut-bait. The group had great success with lane snapper, catching twenty-five keeper-sized lanes to 13 inches, but choosing to release ten of those. They also caught a mess of twenty-five grunts to 12 inches, and also released ten of those. They released two out-of-season triggerfish, one at 15 inches, and the other a short, at 12 inches. They also released twenty-eight red grouper shorts to 18 inches. The kids were keeping count of all the fish caught, and were proud of their total of eighty!
Friday, 1/6, I spent the day fishing in spots from 20 to 28 miles west of New Pass with John Rankin, Norm Grieves, and brothers, Peter and Tommy Tan. Seas were a little choppy early on, but calmed down nicely later. The fog was a different story—it was pretty dense until mid-morning. Despite all that, the guys caught a bunch of fish, including thirty lane snapper keepers to 17 inches, twenty-six red grouper, including one keeper at 22 inches, a keeper, 13-inch mangrove snapper, and a dozen grunts, all around 13 inches. The grouper bit on pinfish, and everything else was caught on squid and cut-bait.
Saturday, 1/7, brought a rainy, windy day, ahead of a cold front that would plunge temps into the 40's. I remained in port.
You can check out all of our shark and goliath grouper action videos at the following link:
The first photo shown is of Gary Grimes with a 29-inch black drum, caught on shrimp in Estero Bay on a recent inshore trip.
The second photo shown is of Edward Tritt with a 26-inch red grouper, caught on a baitfish20 miles west of New Pass on a recent offshore trip.
29-inch black drum, caught on shrimp in Estero Bay, Bonita Beach, SWFL
26-inch red grouper, on baitfish, 20 miles west of New Pass, Bonita Beach, SWFL
About The Author: Captain Dave Hanson
Company: Fish Buster Charters
Area Reporting: Bonita Beach
Bio: Captain Dave Hanson is a native of southwest Florida. He has been fishing local waters since childhood, and has been fishing professionally for over fifteen years. He is Coast Guard licensed, and is a member in good standing of the Bonita Springs Chamber of Commerce. He has been featured in several national fishing magazines, and he also appears weekly in the fishing reports sections of the Bonita, Ft. Myers, Ft. Myers Beach, and Naples, FL newspapers.